Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Two Blondes Walk Into A Bar
by venitha

"You look like Sonja." Virginia, my new friend and guide in Shanghai, says.

Our mutual and mutually-adored friend Sonja is a great topic of discussion as we become acquainted. But me? Look like Sonja? Hardly.

"But Sonja is blonde."

"Yes. Your hair is not blonde? What do you call your color?"

Frizzy? "Brown. Red. Auburn," I say dreamily, seductively tossing my tresses back over my shoulder. "Definitely not blonde."

"Hmmm. It looks the same to me."

She follows this statement with no wink, no raised eyebrow, no telling smirk, so I have to assume she doesn't understand the joking insult implied by calling me blonde when I clearly am not. I toy with the idea of explaining this to her, to sharing my favorite dumb blonde joke, but then I remember my father trying to explain the phrase cold as witch's tit to our family's newly-arrived Mexican exchange student, and I conclude that some things are best lost before translation.

Besides, I am astounded by Virginia's claim. Can blonde, brown, and red hair all look the same to Chinese eyes? Does this mean the Chinese are essentially color blind? If so, it explains a great deal: the clashing clothing color combinations, the clear preference for bold jarring red over calm soothing blue, and especially the really bad hair dye jobs, an unfortunate number of my own here included.

So, okay, forget color, and I can finally stop banging my head against the wall in my efforts to fashion a rainbow from black hair and brown eyes. But if not color, then what? What identifying characteristics make all Caucasians alike and all Asians different? Some possibilities:

  • Size. All Caucasians are similar size-wise in that we are taller, bigger, and more, well, three-dimensional. Sonja and I are about the same size, though as she's currently over 8-months pregnant, this isn't the most flattering of comparisons for me. But Virginia hasn't seen her lately. Throughout Asia, sizes vary widely, though in Singapore, there's fairly limited variation between toothpick-thin and teeny-tiny-toothpick-thin.

  • Smell. Rumor has it that all Caucasians smell like sour milk thanks to their dairy-heavy diets in comparison to the common Asian diet of the lactose-intolerant. I am also frequently told that I smell like sunscreen (do you think these guys are hitting on me?), and I imagine this is true of just about anyone here with my skin color. I haven't put the sniff theory to the test, but in Singapore, it's hard to believe smell is useful in distinguishing individuals; let's face it: we all smell like sweat.

  • Facial features. The broad generalization is that all Caucasians have big noses and round eyes, and relative to most Asians, this is true. But don't all Asians have cute little button noses and slanted eyes? Actually, the more time I spend here and the more I travel in Asia, the better I get at noticing the facial features that often distinguish different Asian ethnicities. She's got a flat nose. He's got a round face. Does that woman not have ? And, hey! Where's his upper lip?

My favorite dumb blonde joke:
How do you get a nun pregnant?
Dress her up as an altar boy.

Oh, whoops! Wrong joke. How blonde of me! Here we go:
How do you get a blonde to marry you?
Tell her she's pregnant.